Cachexia is a muscle wasting condition which is a serious problem in people with cancer, AIDS and a range of chronic diseases of the bowel, liver, lungs and heart. A recent study has found that the gene known as "twist", which was first found in fruit flies, where it is involved in muscle development, could help develop new treatments for muscle wasting in humans.
Researchers have been studying the function of the twist gene in mice. Mice that were genetically modified to lack the twist gene were found to be underweight and frail, in addition to developing cachexia. Researchers found that the twist gene regulates the levels of inflammatory molecules called cytokines in the body, without which, the body is flooded with high levels of cytokines, which triggers the muscle wasting. They concluded that there might be a similar effect in humans which may help those at risk of cachexia, by leading to development of new drugs that can moderate cytokine production.